Lufthansa is launching the world’s very first biofuel passenger plane in April 2011.
German airline Lufthansa will participate in a government-backed study into the long-term effects of biofuels on airplane engines, starting with a short flight from Hamburg to Frankfurt, four times per day for six months next year. They join only a select few airlines who have begun real-world tests on jet biofuels, including Air Japan and New Zealand.
At a cost of 8.7 million to Lufthansa and a further 2.5 million in government funds this is the first experiment to run on a standard schedule. A substantial amount of costs are expended on the fuel itself which is estimated at three to five times that of conventional jet fuels.
High altitudes and extreme engine temperatures require different fuel to that used in land based vehicles. Kerosene produced from distilling crude oil is a common ingredient in jet fuels. This diminishing resource demands a high price one that Lufthansa predicts, will cripple an already limping airline industry.
As such the airline is one of many dedicating their efforts to finding sustainable alternatives. Having joined the Sustainable Aviation Fuel users group last year Lufthansa hopes to continue their research applying for membership to the European Algae Biomass Association.
Next years six month trial will utilise a blend of fuels made from 50% vegetable oil which releases carbon dioxide but through a closed ecological cycle, releasing only want the plants take from the atmosphere for growth. The estimated reduction in carbon emissions from biofuel is up to 80% compared with kerosene. A mix of biofuel with traditional kerosene in one engine on the Hamburg to Frankfurt flight is predicted to save about 1,500 metric tons of CO2 over the testing period.
With the help of sustainable alternative fuels Lufthansa aims to cut CO2 emissions by half over the next ten years.

Inga Yandell
Explorer and media producer, passionate about nature, culture and travel. Combining science and conservation with investigative journalism to provide resources and opportunities for creative exploration.